Senator Stephanie Flowers

I don’t often mention it, but I am from Arkansas, and all my family are from Arkansas.

The Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee voted down a bill that would have loosened regulations for the use of deadly force in self-defense. Video courtesy Arkansas Senate livestream
Both Sens. Stephanie Flowers and Bob Ballinger spoke after a video went viral where Flowers gave an emotional speech against a "Stand Your Ground" bill that failed in committee. Video courtesy Arkansas Senate

A Hymn in NYC

My manboy Suf closes out the program on National Public Radio's Live From Here in NYC with Chris Thile. When's the last time a public theater full of New Yorkers sang a sacred prayer to Jesus Christ in earnest solemnity? Magic. 

The moment was too holy, it seems the host forewent the usual end credits to lead all in singing the hymn's fifth verse. 

Who has the courage to sing of Jesus's rejection and passion in a mixed audience that would certainly include Jewish people? A prophet. A Christian trying to find his way to the Truth, and to stay in the Truth. For all of us.

OAJ Interview with Ioan Popa

Fr. Silouan Justiniano recently interviewed the extraordinary Romanian iconographer Ioan Popa for the Orthodox Arts Journal. Below is my favorite passage, from Mr. Popa. Here he is addressing the context and creative challenges facing contemporary church painters. He lays out an artistic credo: an evangelical foundation for the ministry of iconography as a pastoral work.

"You have to think deeply to whom you are addressing the painting: To you, to your fellows, or to God? If we apply love as an evangelical foundation, I think that we must carefully bend towards the way our fellows feel things. Even though most of the times they are not educated, the love of beauty is seeded in them. And as servants in color we can either alleviate or exhaust them through what we paint; we can send them a message or, worse, confuse them.

"So we can use all the tools allowed: concise and powerful visual shapes, a narrow but valuable chromatic palette, gold foil not in excess, dropping frames between scenes in order to let the viewer read them as sequences, a careful balance between full and empty, monumentality, texts developed to replace abusive ornaments, dropping landscape or architectural accessories in scenes, and emphasizing the conception in unity with the rest of the liturgical objects from the interior. I do not exaggerate if I compare the image of today’s icon with a qualitative advertising banner. Practically, both address the same contemporary person in everyday life."

Ioan Popa


The Ancestral Wound: The Home of Shame's Voice

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:1-5)

"The dark voice accuses God. Everything is colored by its resentment and mistrust. “God just doesn’t want you to be like Him…” Imagine that statement coming from a very lonely, very hurt, very suspicious child. And in this case, the voice is being planted and exploited by our true nemesis.

"The result is our shame. We hide ourselves. And now the hiding place is a dark wound within us, one that lives like a grumble. It is the shame-filled nemesis who now whispers a narrative for our day.

"This voice is stronger in some than others, depending on the depth and severity of the wound. It can also grow stronger, if it is allowed to become the dominant sound in our heads. As Christians, we resist it (sometimes). It puzzles us and shakes any confidence we might have in our own faith. “How can I think such things?” we wonder. You didn’t think them. The words are the voice of something very old (and young) and unattended.

"It is a place that, ironically, requires compassion. It is easy to identify such negative energy as an enemy, and nurture a kind of self-loathing. But self-loathing (of that sort), is easily nothing more than the sound of the voice you have come to loathe. It is a loathing that feeds on itself as a toxic rant rather than bringing about healing."

Fr. Stephen Freeman


The Greatest Gift

stop motion animation music video by Sufjan Stevens of a recently released short, using cut out Jehovah's Witness pamphlet illustrations. Ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek, exuberant, restrained, and also completely earnest.

Mister Rogers Loves Me

A new documentary is set to be released this Summer about the great Fred Rogers. Prepare to weep for joy at the overwhelming certainty of beauty and love that is in yourself, which echoes to the furthest ends of the universe and heaven.

Mother of God

Patty Griffin, giving an impossibly courageous voice to the experience of remembering, processing and moving through a childhood trauma into adulthood. Let the reader understand.

Things can happen that make it hard for us to pray. Why did God let this happen? How is this part of the salvation of the world?

How can we pray to the one whom we feel has betrayed us? Keep singing our shame into the light, sisters and brothers. You are transforming the world.


All you kids get out the back door
I've never seen her this mad before
She took all her favorite things down from the window
And broke 'em all over her clean floor

It's Saturday at the mansion
The oldest boy walks with a slouch
The young ones are wild in back of the house
And she gave up and went back to sleep on the couch

Something as simple as boys and girls
Gets tossed all around and lost in the world
Something as hard as a prayer on your back
Wait a long time for an answer

When I was little I'd stare at her picture
And talk to the Mother of God
I swear sometimes I'd see her lips move
Like she was trying to say something to me

When I was eighteen I moved to Florida
Like everyone sick of the cold does
And I waited on old people waiting to die
OhI waited on them
until I was

Something as simple as boys and girls
Gets tossed all around and lost in the world
Something as hard as a prayer on your back
Wait a long time for an answer

So I'm wearing my footsteps into this floor
One day I won't live here anymore
Someone will wonder who lived here before
And went on their way

I live too many miles from the ocean
And I'm getting older and odd
I get up every morning with my cup of coffee
And I talk to the Mother of God

Something as simple as boys and girls
Gets tossed all around and lost in the world
Something as hard as a prayer on your back
Can wait a long time for an answer
Can wait a long time for an answer

Maybe it's alright
Maybe we won't fight anymore
Maybe love is waiting at the end of every road
I don't know
I don't know
But maybe
maybe it's

Making Pies

Austinite Patty Griffin with one of her gorgeous songs about the courage of ordinary women.

Woman is the glorious, victorious, the mother of the heart of the world.


It's not far
I can walk
Down the block
To TableTalk
Close my eyes
Make the pies all day

Plastic cap
On my hair
I used to mind
Now I don't care
I used to mind
Now I don't care
Cause I'm gray

Did I show you this picture of my nephew
Taken at his big birthday surprise
At my sister's house last Sunday
This is Monday and I'm making pies
I'm making pies
Making pies

Thursday nights
I go and type
Down at the church
For Father Mike
It gets me out
And he ain't hard to like
At all

Jesus stares at me
In my chair
With his big blue eyes
And his honey brown hair
And he's looking at me
From way up there
On the wall

Did I show you this picture of my sweetheart
Taken of us before the war
Of the Greek and his Italian girl
One Sunday at the shore 

We tied our ribbons to the fire escape
They were taken by the birds
Who flew home to the country
As the bombs rained on the world

Here I am
Walking the block
To TableTalk
You could cry or die
Or just make pies all day
I'm making pies
Making pies
Making pies
Making pies

getting ready for The Greatest Gift

Single just released from Sufjan's upcoming EP The Greatest Gift: outtakes, remixes, and extras from his Carrie & Lowell album.

Preorder it here: Lyrics: As if you know the story of Wallowa Lake: Leviathan first hid in the deep where her children sleep She kept them hidden from the plague But have you heard the story of my mother's fate?

Speaking Words of Comfort to My Inner Screaming Child

"I also identified this deep voice as primarily a matter of shame. It is a wound, an injury to the soul and body that feels like abandonment, alienation and pain. In emotional terms, it tends to make us feel worthless. That, in turn, is frequently expressed in anxiety, anger or sadness. This noise can run for days on end, depending on circumstances. …

"Attention does not ignore or run away (this is likely only to increase the volume). Instead, attention “bears a little shame.” And sitting patiently with the brokenness we say to God, “Comfort me, comfort me.” This is the sound of the mother who draws the disquieted child back to her breast. She doesn’t judge. She doesn’t rebuke. She quiets the child by herself being its comfort, its assurance, the affirmation that all is well.

"'It’s ok. All is well. You are not alone. You are not abandoned. All is well,' and I quieted my soul. …

"Anger is useless against shame. The dark thoughts are the sound of Adam talking to himself in the bushes. God comes to comfort him. 'Where are you?'

"'Here I am. Comfort me.'"

Fr. Stephen Freeman


Saturn & Mercury

Who else writes a song about cannibalism, addiction, self-hatred, holy Communion, shame, rejection, and love for enemies - under the guise of being about a planet in our solar system? Nobody.

and this little gem from the same album.

Shame, Vulnerability, Healing

Quoted from Fr. Stephen Freeman

"Shame is the natural response to broken communion. [Kaufman, The Psychology of Shame, 1996, pp. 32-33] The relationship of communion with others is the very essence of safety and comfort. Its most primal expression is the bond between mother and nursing infant. Face-to-face, the child is held and nurtured. There the child is comforted and protected. Every later experience of union draws on this primal experience.
"The first instinct of shame is to look down, to turn the face away and hide. Blood rushes to the face (it “burns with shame”). Shame is the very sacrament of broken communion, the most proper and natural expression of sin. When Christ enters our shame (and bears it), it is as though God Himself stands before us, takes our face in His hands, and turns our eyes back to Him. […]
"In the Ladder of Divine Ascent we hear: “Shame can only be healed by shame.” As difficult as this is for us, it is the place of atonement and exchange that Christ has set. I have been learning recently, however, that to speak of “bearing a little shame” (in the words of the Elder Sophrony) is overwhelming to some. Popular shame researcher and author, Brené Brown, uses the term “vulnerability” when she speaks of confronting and healing shame. Vulnerability, at its core, is nothing other than “bearing a little shame.” It is the willingness to be real, to be authentic with the risk that it entails. This is on the psychological level. There is a deeper level, though we cannot really go there without enduring the psychological first.
"God give us grace to be vulnerable in His presence, vulnerable enough to discover our true selves."

Read the whole post here.

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